“Your Keto Carolina BBQ sauce is a great salad dressing!”
That’s not really what pitmasters want to hear from their wives when they unveil a new BBQ sauce recipe they have spent countless hours perfecting, is it?
One of the really interesting (and humbling) aspects of any sort of creative work is the realization that once you put something out there for the world to consume and hopefully appreciate, it’s not really yours anymore.
Now, I don’t mean that it’s “not mine” in the sense that someone else can take it, slap their name on it, and pretend like they created it. What I am trying to say is that other people do, in fact, get an opinion as to what they think about it, its potential utility, and other purposes it might be good for.
That “other purpose” in the case of my Carolina BBQ Sauce is apparently a salad dressing.
In reality, it’s not that bad. The goal for my take on the sauce was to end up with something more “southern gentlemanly” than what most would generally consider to be the Platonic ideal. I wanted to amp up the flavor, sweeten it a bit, and round its corners.
Carolina BBQ sauce is known for the acidic sharpness of the mustard and vinegar and that is essentially my gripe with it. It is *all* vinegar and mustard. Too much pungency, too much prevalent acid, and too monochromatic in taste.
I talk a lot about the global supply chain and its ongoing influence in home cooking and recipe development a lot. Classic dishes as we know them weren’t handed down by The Almighty, they were created and honed over time in response to the identity, quality, and affordability of the ingredients available. In modern times, when it comes to ingredient availability we have an embarrassment of riches. There hasn’t been as much movement in how we eat at home as you might expect, though.
So, the “new rules” are that there are no rules other than what is delicious and nutritious. The goal is to keep (somewhat) true to the qualities that make the original dish good, but let it grow and expand with the times, taking advantage of new tools and ingredients when it makes sense.
So, I wanted to give my Carolina BBQ sauce a healthier, more worldly sensibility. As I did in my Texas Keto BBQ Sauce, I substituted a blend of artificial sweeteners for the added sugar. The vinegar was replaced with a blend of apple cider vinegar and rice wine vinegar. This kept most of the acidity but added substantial flavor and dimension.
The brown sugar and/or molasses you often see were removed to brighten things up and counteract any acidity we lost from using the rice wine vinegar in place of white vinegar, which tastes too industrial to me. I feel like I need to clean my shower door glass with it, not put it in my BBQ sauce.
In keeping with the drift the sauce takes toward the Far East with the rice wine vinegar, some Tamari soy sauce is added, which is also wheat-free. Umami is a taste too, and just that little bit of Tamari contributes considerable savoriness to the end product.
I added some smoked paprika, since some smoke flavor is appropriate. This is the South, after all. It adds just a hint of smoke, some additional savoriness, and tints the whole pot a beautiful orange color as it simmers.
Finally, since the sauce is a liquid, some consideration needs to be given towards its body — how it coats food and sits on your tongue when you eat it. This sauce takes a cue from Buffalo wing sauce, which itself is basically a hot salad dressing. The emulsification of the butter and vinegar-based hot sauce produces it’s hefty body and greatly affects how it coats a chicken wing and how you perceive its taste.
I add two tablespoons of neutral flavored avocado oil into the sauce and whisked to partially emulsify it. This thickens its body, allowing it to more readily coat and hang on meat. Or salad.
Carolina BBQ Sauce
Place all ingredients except the avocado oil into a pot over medium high heat. Whisk together until combined. As soon as the pot begins to simmer, turn the heat down to low to maintain the simmer for 20 minutes. Leave the lid off, some reduction is desirable.
Turn off the heat, and add the avocado oil. Whisk vigorously to partly emulsify the sauce. When complete, it should start to cling a bit to the side of the pot.